Chris Skidmore becomes first Tory MP to publicly switch his support to Liz Truss for PM

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Rishi Sunak has suffered yet another serious blow to his Tory leadership campaign as a senior former minister withdrew his support and backed Liz Truss instead.

Chris Skidmore announced he was changing sides with a blast at the former chancellor, saying he was ‘increasingly concerned’ by the campaign’s ‘consistently changing position’ on policy.

He is from the more liberal side of the party and heads up the Net Zero Support Group of environmentally aware Tories.

The Kingswood MP is the first MP to publicly defect from one campaign to another and it came as Mr Sunak continues to struggle in the polls.

His decision last night prompted yet more blue-on-blue attacks that have become a hallmark of the leadership campaign.

Senior figures in the Sunak camp told the Times Skidmore was worried about his 11,000 seat majority in his South Gloucestershire seat and was swapping in the hope of landing a seat in the House of Lords.

It came as Mr Sunak and Ms Truss continue to hammer each other over their plans to avert economic catastrophe this winter.

The Foreign Secretary doubled down on her determination to cut taxes to rescue the economy, plans Mr Sunak said would lead to an election ‘hammering’ for the Tories.

Facing northern Tories at a hustings in Darlington she said cancelling a planned increase in Corporation Tax was needed to  stimulate growth.

She also rebuffed pleas from Gordon Brown and the CBI leader Tony Danker to sit down with her rival and Boris Johnson before the Tory leadership winner is announced in September to  sort out the energy crisis.

She branded the idea a ‘kangaroo committee’ and said it was for Boris Johnson to act now – something he is refusing to do.

Mr Skidmore said: ‘Initially, I had backed Rishi Sunak during the MPs’ stage of the contest. Yet over the past few weeks, I have grown increasingly concerned by his campaign’s consistently changing position, especially on the economy, to chase votes. I am convinced that we need a bolder, more positive approach to the UK’s future.

Above all, we need a leader who will unite the party. Liz Truss has demonstrated that she has the leadership and personal ability to bring us all together. We cannot afford to be seen as a divided party and for me, I now believe that Liz is the best person to unite us and the country under her leadership in meeting the challenges we face head-on.’

Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, who is backing Rishi Sunak in the party’s leadership race, said that ‘inevitably MPs change their mind during these contests’, when asked about the defection of MP Chris Skidmore to supporting Liz Truss.

‘I talk every day to Conservative Party members, he’s got a huge amount of support and he has got great plans for our economy,’ Ms Villiers told Sky News.

She added that MPs changing their minds ‘is a routine part of every Conservative leadership election contest there’s ever been’.

She added: ‘Rishi had a tremendously good hustings in Darlington last night, in the Sky hustings he won over that audience, he’s getting a tremendous reception on the ground – he’s campaigning to win.’

Ms Truss has has refused to commit to extra support for families struggling with the cost of living after analysts delivered a shock warning that energy bills could top £4,200 in the new year.

The two remaining contenders in the Tory leadership race faced renewed calls to spell out how they would help after Cornwall Insight forecast average bills could hit about £3,582 in October, from £1,971 today, before rising further in January.

Mr Sunak pledged that he would be prepared to sit down with his rival and incumbent PM Boris Johnson to discuss the issue before one of them replaces him.

But he questioned the value of the move – demanded by figures including Gordon Brown, while he and Ms Truss disagree on the medicine needed.

Boris Johnson has declared he is ‘absolutely confident’ that his successor as prime minister ‘will have the fiscal firepower and the headroom to continue to continue to look after people’.

The Prime Minister also said he is ‘certain’ that whoever wins the Tory leadership election will want to make announcements about how they will ‘further help people’ struggling to get by.

Speaking at a Downing Street reception on Tuesday, Mr Johnson cracked jokes about it being one of his last events in the garden at Number 10, and the next prime minister being either a man or a woman.

The Prime Minister had also told guests: ‘In these difficult financial times people are feeling the squeeze across our country and they’re feeling the impact in particular of the energy price spikes that are being caused by (Vladimir) Putin’s war in Ukraine and of course it’s right that the Government is doing everything that we can to help.

Source: The Dailymail

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